CB Richard Ellis

Principals: Art Wahl, Jim Bowles, Mark Alexander

Specialty: Commercial real estate services

Year founded: 1903

Headquarters: Los Angeles

Brokers Jim Bowles and Art Wahl said low interest rates, a diverse portfolio and a shaky stock market fueled a strong year for CB Richard Ellis’ Puget Sound offices.

“There hasn’t been really any one sector that’s been wildly great. It’s just sort of like an engine hitting on all cylinders right now,” Bowles said. Or as Wahl put it, “We’ve just been on a flat roll.”

Wahl said Sept. 11 made would-be buyers grow introspective and sit on the fence in 2002, but thanks largely to record-low interest rates, “by 2003 they couldn’t sit on the fence any longer.”

Wahl said a desire for preservation of capital in an unsteady economy compelled investors to sink money into real estate rather than the stock market, bonds or the bank. He said industrial, apartment, office and institutional sales and leasing transactions helped CB Richard Ellis fare well in 2003.

For instance, CB Richard Ellis brokered Boeing’s sale of 120 acres in Kent to Tukwila businessman Mario Segale; Fisher Communications’ sale of West Lake Union Center and Fisher Business Center to Rreef Funds; the sale of TransPacific Industrial Park in Fife to AMP Property Corp.; and the sale of Jefferson Square, a West Seattle mixed-use complex, to California-based ScanlanKemperBard.

“We’ve probably got 10 buildings that add up to half a billion dollars in sales,” Wahl said. “We just think we’ve been extremely fortunate. In some cases we’ve been in the right place at the right time. In some cases things have just kind of come together.”

Bowles said CB Richard Ellis has about 180 employees in Bellevue, Seattle and Tukwila after adding 28 sales specialists in 2002 and 2003. Looking into next year, Bowles said, “It’s hard to imagine 2004 will continue at same pace as 2003, but we’d expect it will be a relatively good year.

“The real catch is what will happen with interest rates,” he said. “We haven’t seen interest rates like this for years. I don’t think anyone is very confident we’ll see interest rates like this again for a while.”

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